Personal Attributes of Successful Interns as Perceived by Dietetic Internship Directors and Preceptors from Varying Generations

Jamie A. Smythe, Julie R. Schumacher*, Robert W. Cullen, Yoon Jin Ma
Illinois State University, Campus Box 5060, Normal, IL 61790-5060, USA

© 2015 Smythe et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to these authors at the Illinois State University, Campus Box 5060, Normal, IL 61790-5060, USA;


Personal attributes of students and employees are increasingly important to educators and employers. This study determined the personal attributes perceived by Dietetic Internship Directors and Preceptors from varying generations that lead to success in Dietetic Internships.

Internship Directors and Preceptors throughout the United States participated in this 2012 study. A mixed methods approach was utilized. The results from a preliminary web-based survey of Preceptors and Dietetic Internship Directors local to the researchers were used to develop a list of personal attributes. The final survey provided participants the opportunity to rate 35 personal attributes. Usable data for analysis was received from 311 responders.

The top ten reported personal attributes included: motivation, completion of tasks, dependability, respectful, positive attitude, flexible, listening skills, asks questions, open minded, and professional. Dietetic Internship Directors perceived flexibility (M=9.53) and punctuality (M=9.34) to lead to success significantly (p=0.017) more than Preceptors (M=9.30; M=9.04). Results showed significant differences in success-associated attributes of Interns among the primary setting, generation, and Registered Dietitian status of Directors and Preceptors. The Behavioral category of personal attributes was perceived to be more important than Communication or Interpersonal.

This study suggests that some personal attributes are more highly valued by Dietetic Internship Directors and Preceptors than others. Knowledge of these attributes can help guide allied health educators in preparing future interns and employers in selecting potential employees.

Keywords: Interns, internship, matching, personal attributes, generational differences.